Fast Acting Edibles: The Science Behind Cannabis Nanoemulsions

Fast Acting Edibles: The Science Behind Cannabis Nanoemulsions

Edibles offer a convenient and discreet way to consume cannabis with potent and long-lasting effects. However, traditional edibles have low bioavailability, meaning the body doesn't easily absorb the cannabinoids. Infused foods can also have delayed onset and unpredictable effects. To address these issues, some cannabis brands are creating fast-acting edibles using nanoemulsion technology. 

What is a Cannabis Nanoemulsion?

A cannabis nanoemulsion is a tiny mixture of cannabis oil, water, and special blending agents called surfactants combined through ultrasonication.

Ultrasonication uses high-frequency sound waves to break the cannabis oil into extremely small particles, almost at the nano level. These tiny particles, often well under 200 nanometers, are evenly dispersed throughout the water, forming a stable solution. The resulting mixture is a translucent, consistent liquid that can be seamlessly blended into edibles and rapidly absorbed into the body. 

How Do Nanoemulsions Compare to Traditional Edibles?

Nano-based ingestibles and traditional edibles differ in their manufacturing processes and particle sizes. A nanoemulsion edible incorporates tiny cannabis extract particles into food products to enhance bioavailability (absorption rate) and consistency. In contrast, traditional edibles mix cannabinoids directly into food items without altering the size, leading to larger particles and potentially uneven distribution. 

This distinction means nanoemulsions and traditional edibles can differ significantly in efficiency, onset time, and experience predictability. 

1. Absorption and Bioavailability

  • Nanoemulsions: Nanoemulsions increase the bioavailability of cannabinoids, meaning a greater percentage of the active compound is absorbed into the bloodstream. That’s because nano-sized particles easily bypass the digestive system, traverse the mucous membranes, and enter the circulation system, leading to a more efficient and quicker uptake.
  • Traditional Edibles: Traditional edibles sometimes have poor bioavailability due to the large particle sizes of cannabinoids and their fat-soluble nature. The body has difficulty absorbing these compounds because they do not dissolve easily in water, which makes up a large part of the gastrointestinal tract. Additionally, traditional edibles must pass through the digestive system, where the cannabinoids are slowly absorbed. This process can be less efficient, resulting in 4-20% lower bioavailability. 

2. Onset of Effects

  • Nanoemulsions: Due to their high bioavailability and absorption rate, nanoemulsion edibles can kick in within 15 to 30 minutes.
  • Traditional Edibles: Conventional edibles typically take longer to kick in, usually around 30 minutes, and at least two hours to reach peak concentrations. This delay is due to the time required for the liver to metabolize the edibles.

3. Consistency and Stability

  • Nanoemulsions: Nanoemulsion edibles are typically more stable than regular edibles because their tiny droplet size minimizes the chances of separation or clumping, commonly seen in larger particle emulsions. This homogeneity ensures more predictable dosing and absorption.
  • Traditional Edibles: Cannabinoid distribution in traditional edibles can vary because large particles don't disperse as uniformly as smaller particles. Depending on the manufacturing process, the cannabinoids can clump together or settle at different rates, resulting in some areas of the product having higher concentrations of the active ingredients than others. This variance might result in unpredictable effects from one piece to another.

4. Duration of Effects

  • Nanoemulsions: Nano-based ingestibles typically have a shorter duration than traditional edibles because their smaller particle size allows faster absorption into the bloodstream. This rapid onset means the effects dissipate more quickly, typically within two to four hours. 
  • Traditional Edibles: Traditional edibles take longer to kick in but typically last four to six hours  because the cannabinoids absorb more slowly into the digestive system, allowing a prolonged release into the bloodstream.

5. Experience Profile

  • Traditional Edibles: Traditional edibles undergo a metabolic transformation in the liver, where THC converts to 11-Hydroxy THC, a metabolite known for its potent psychoactive effects. This conversion can lead to a more intense and longer-lasting high, which some people enjoy but others find overwhelming. 
  • Nanoemulsion Edibles: By bypassing much of the digestive system, nanoemulsion edibles avoid the conversion of THC into 11-Hydroxy THC. This means the effects are generally milder and more akin to smoking or vaping THC directly.

Are Nanoemulsions Shelf Stable?

Nanoemulsions are designed to enhance the stability and bioavailability of active compounds. However, the formulas they occur in contain unstable ingredients and high moisture content. These qualities make all infused foods, including fast-acting edibles, vulnerable to microbial growth, chemical degradation, and physical damage from heat, moisture, and air, especially once opened. Nanoemulsions are also susceptible to potency loss due to oxidation.

For these reasons, nano-based edibles must undergo stability tests at third-party laboratories. Shelf life testing provides critical information that helps brands ensure consistency and quality over time by assessing how the product ages under various environmental conditions.

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Shelf life testing is essential for fast-acting edibles because:

This testing measures changes in the product's chemical stability, potency, microbial growth, physical appearance, and taste. By understanding how these factors change, brands can optimize packaging, formulations, and storage conditions to enhance formula longevity and ensure that each batch remains effective and safe for consumption throughout its intended shelf life. This proactive approach allows brands to maintain high-quality standards and consumer satisfaction.

Consumers can check a product’s Certificate of Analysis (COA) to determine whether the brand submitted samples for shelf-life testing. Brands that test products with third-party laboratories typically publish COAs on their websites and link to the documents from QR codes on the product’s label. 

Nano Gummy Products 

Kahna Nano Gummies

Kahna’s cannabis-infused nano gummies come in six fruity flavors, including key lime, passionfruit, and tangerine. Each package contains 20 nano emulsion gummies with 5mg of THC. The brand claims to be the first to introduce rapid-onset edibles while boasting other attributes like an “all-natural” formula enriched with top cannabis terpenes, including myrcene, limonene, and a-humulene. 

Select Nano Bites 

Select Nano Bites features fast-acting edibles using “strain-inspired terpene formulations” in flavors like peach, mango, and pomegranate. Each package contains twenty 5mg bites using nano emulsification technology to deliver water-soluble THC. Along with THC, these bites contain a full spectrum of cannabinoids, including CBG and CBN

Jolly Nano THC Gummies

Jolly’s Nano THC Gummies feature sativa, hybrid, and indica blends in a compact jar packed with 5-gram edibles. Infused with a hemp-derived THC nanoemulsion, these gummies are Farm Bill compliant and fast-acting. The brand also provides a Certificate of Analysis (COA) for each product, ensuring transparency about the contents and safety.

Bottom Line 

Nanoemulsion technology is a significant advancement in creating fast-acting edibles that offer both convenience and enhanced effectiveness. This method contrasts sharply with traditional edibles, which often display low bioavailability and unpredictable effects due to large, unevenly distributed cannabinoid particles. Using ultrasonication, nanoemulsions break down cannabis oil into microscopically small particles, ensuring even distribution across the edible. Consumers thus experience a consistent dosing and rapid onset of effects, with increased bioavailability. These technological advances optimize the consumption experience and elevate the standards for product consistency and stability in the cannabis industry.